Sunday, February 26, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The February 1 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

All-New X-Men #1.MU:  Honestly, this issue is one of the best stand-alone issues I've ever read, let alone one connected to an event.  Whitley really has an excellent bead on the characters' personalities. But, he goes beyond that, shows us those personalities when they're pushed into uncomfortable or new places:  Warren adjusting to being the responsible one, Laura having to contemplate why she's part of a team, Idie reacquainting herself with her faith.  On top of that, their interactions with each other really sing:  you can really feel the warmth in Gambit and Laura's relationship, for example.  (In fact, Whitley's Gambit is probably the best version of him I've ever read, getting to the person behind the accent and charm.)  Plus, the action is legitimately fun, thanks to Barberi's great sense of motion.  Honestly, it's a good time had by all.  Laissez les bon temps rouler indeed.

Avengers #4:  Yup, you guessed it:  I still have no idea what the fuck is happening.  Kang narrates this issue and, as amazingly beautiful as it is, I still wrestle with all the usual problems with Kang.  As Waid walks us through Kang's "history," you just have to wonder how it's at all possible.  How does he live eternally?  Why does he live eternally?  What motivates him?  Why is conquering only one era not enough?  This issue makes it clear Waid has big ideas when it comes to Kang, but every author has to answer these questions about Kang if their story is going to make senseAfter the virtually nonsensical first arc, I have my doubts.  Why does everyone insist on starting their run on "Avengers" with a Kang story?  It's like learning to swim in the deep end.

Batman #16:  If you've been reading this blog for a long time, you know that I'm pretty much obsessed with the need for the Bat-family to have a big group hug.  I come as close as I'm ever going to get to that in this issue.  King has the four living Robins go to Bat-burger with Bruce, where Jason admits that he loves Jokerized fries despite "the crowbar and all."  We then see Damian and Jason engage in a food fight while Dick confirms to a bewildered Duke that, yes, Bruce, the man raised by the butler, eats his hamburger with a fork and knife.  Although Bruce proves to be the downer when he angrily notes Tim's absence, I don't care.  I would read an entire series devoted to the Robins having burgers with each other.  King eventually has to get to the point of this meeting:  Bruce asks the boys to vacate Gotham since Bane is on the way and he doesn't want any of them to die (again).  But, it's really all about the meal at Batburger.  Don't worry, Jason:  despite what Damian says about your hairline, I'll still love you.

Hawkeye #3:  I really love everything Thompson is doing here.  It's the L.A. Kate Fraction was trying to write but never quite got right.  Thompson has Kate's Scooby gang fully assembled here:  handsome Johnny, grumpy but game Ramone, hacker Watson, and, most importantly, inside-woman Detective Rivera.  My guess is the large dude looming over Kate at the end of this issue is nefarious surfer Brad, but we'll see.  At this stage, we still don't know why he would be so obsessed with Mikka, so it's possible it is creepy Larry.  On some level, it doesn't matter, because it's just fun to spend time inside Kate's head.  Thompson has her internal narrative down pat, making even searching a house (and finding a dude on the toilet) an exercise in fun.

Moon Knight #11:  This series has been all about Marc's past, but, in truth, we haven't seen much of it from a narrative perspective.  We know his friends and his personas pretty well, but, if you're a new reader like I am, you don't know anything about the details of his life.  Lemire remedies that problem here in a typically creative fashion, showing us flashes of Marc's past as he fights his way through the Overvoid.  (He's trying to find something Anubis lost so Anubis will give him back his friend's soul.)  We see Marc being released from the psychiatric ward where he seems to have spent years, a grown man at this point.  He is released only for a time, to attend his father's funeral.  Afterwards, he rebuffs his mother's assertion that his father would've been happy he came by reminding her how disappointed his father had been in himLater, we see him lying to recruiters about his mental illness to join the Marines, but his strange behavior (including a sexy naked walk through a mine field) leads him to being dishonorably discharged.  (That seems harsh, by the way.  They discover he lied about his mental illness, but don't get him help?)  Marc goes AWOL in Baghdad, and we eventually see him meeting Frenchie after he wins a bout at an underground fight club.  Throughout this narrative, we see hints of Khonshu speaking to him, observing Marc will do anything he needs to do to be cured.  (Lemire's Khonshu at this point is definitely the villain of the story, an opportunist looking to exploit Marc's weaknesses to be reborn.)  In the Overvoid, Marc finds Aput, Anubis' wife, but he'll have to survive being sacrificed to the Overvoid's gods if he's going to save her.  I still marvel (heh) after all these issues at Lemire's ability to tell so many stories on so many levels in so many time periods while still holding onto the threat of the narrative.  It's a wonder to behold, and Smallwood's art infuses it with an emotional depth that's hard to explain.  I don't think I've seen a better duo since Snyder/Jock on "Detective Comics."  I also agree with Kaylee in the letters page:  a great story plus the most handsome Mark ever?  What more could you want?

Nightwing #14:  Seeley has a pretty decent track record for wrapping up loose ends, and he does the same here.  Dick and Shawn track down Jimmy thanks to Shawn poking through his finances and discovering an odd investmenthis "quiet reflection project" that just so happens to be located in a toxic-waste siteSvoboda gets credit for the collar as planned, and Nightwing and the Run-Offs are exonerated.  Dick even gets the girl, in a clever twist on a fantasy sequence, where Dick imagines telling Shawn who he is and she guesses anyway.  (They kiss in both fantasy and reality.)  Moreover, Dick's personal life doesn't get a boost just from his burgeoning romance with Shawn, but the fact he's taking over her position at the community center since she was fired given her connection to the murders.  (This part seemed a little unfair, since she was definitively proven innocent.)  I do wish Seeley spent a little more time on fleshing out Cherry and Jimmy's relationship, since we learn in this issue that Cherry was the one feeding Jimmy information about corruption.  Seeley doesn't really tell us how Cherry came to use Jimmy as her avenging angel or why she felt so strongly about corruption in the first place.  But, it seems possible we'll return to these characters at some point:  at the end of the issue, an accident causes Jimmy's face to bond with broken shards of a mirror.  Although Mirror-Face isn't a great name for a villain, it's clear that someone with that good of a shtick is going to return.  Other than this small complaint, this arc really does establish Dick in Blüdhaven.  Since Dick resumed being Nightwing in 2011, I don't think we've had firmer ground under our feet when it comes to Dick, and I'm excited to see where Seeley takes us.

Nova #3:  As expected, Rich starts doling out girl advice here, telling Sam that the thing he learned by dying is that he wish he would've talked to more girls when he was alive.  Sam is worried Lina -- (the girl whose name his brain screams, as Cosmo tells us) -- will reject him, and Rich tells him that he'll live if that happens.  After all, again, Rich died, so he's got a pretty solid perspective on that front.  But, Loveness and Pérez actually call into question here whether Rich "died" or "remains dead;" when he uses his powers here, he reverts to his Cancerverse self, even if no one else (or, at least, Sam) doesn't see him in that form.  The mystery continues.  At any rate, Loveness and Pérez really capture the Rich we all know and love, the caring and charming straight guy who feel responsibility for taking care of everyone around him.  Speaking of girls and love, enter Gamora next issue!

Spider-Man 2099 #20:  I enjoy Miguel having an archenemy in the present in the form of Man Mountain Marko.  It adds a nice touch.  Of course, his real archenemy, his father, is also at play here, so it does dim Marko's star a little.  David does a great job using Tyler to remind us just how much Tempest knows about Miguel.  I was worried he was going to spill the beans about Miguel being Spider-Man or being from the future, but Tempest already knows all that.  I think the most significant conversation is actually when Tempest threatens to kill Tyler if he's lying about his ability to cure her, because that feels like clear foreshadowing and not an idle threat.  Also, I haven't mentioned it for a while, but Sliney is really the perfect fit for this title.  His clean lines really imbue it with a futuristic vibe.  It's really smooth sailing over here.

Also Read:  Champions #5; Midnighter and Apollo #5

Friday, February 24, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The January 25 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batgirl #7:  This issue is uneven, with Larson making Barbara almost insufferable as a "social justice warrior to the maximum!" while at the same time injecting some excitement into the series with the introduction of Penguin's son, Ethan.  The conflict in the issue revolves around the homeless in Burnside.  Gordon Clean Energy has apparently turned Burnside into San Francisco, forcing out everyone in the 99 percent.  Barbara feels guilty (since it's her fault) and launches into a tirade when she overhears two hipsters at a party complaining about the homeless.  She attracts the attention of Ethan, whose company has developed an app to help move the homeless to "safer" locations.  But, no one is vetting the volunteers, and a villain named Fright uses the app to procure homeless people as research subjects.  (We're supposed to recognize Fright, because Barbara does, but I don't.)  Barbara makes quick work of Fright and uses her date with Ethan to gather more information about his plans.  The problem is Barbara doesn't do the thing she really should do to help, namely make Gordon Clean Energy a more responsible neighbor.  If its location in Burnside is driving up rents, she should move the company somewhere else in Gotham or do something to address the problem, like making sure the company is investing in affordable housing.  Even if she's not going to take over the company to do it herself, she should talk to Alyssia about it.  (Is Alyssia still running it?  Maybe it's time to rethink that?)  She's behaving as if she sold the company to a private-equity firm and can't control its behavior.  But, instead of doing something about the problem, she's actually washed her hands of technology entirely and enrolled in a library-science program.  I'm fine with her doing that (it's a nice nod to her past), but it's hard to reconcile that with her outrage over a situation she caused.  (Also, how fucking long was she in Asia.  It seemed like two weeks, tops.  How did Burnside gentrify so quickly?)

Black Panther #10:  Not unexpectedly, Coates gets even more philosophical in the last moments of peace before Tetu and his zombie-like forces arrive in the Golden City.  T'Challa asks forgiveness from Changamire for his sins, particularly his pride in thinking he was better than his ancestors for not resorting to torture and then considering doing exactly that when his back was against the wall.  But, T'Challa isn't the only one here who needs to repent.  Although Changamire refuses to acknowledge he clings to a fantasy of how governments work, he is forced to acknowledge T'Challa doesn't want to dominate his people as king and, conversely, Tetu probably does.  Similarly, Shuri gets the Dora Milaje to admit what they already know, that Tetu will turn on them once the Golden City falls.  With these reluctant allies secured, T'Challa and Shuri show why they're the best there is at what they do.

Bloodshot U.S.A. #2-#4I know it won't last, but let me just say how happy I am Lemire lets Bloodshot and Magic have their happy ending.  Lemire wraps up pretty much every loose end since "The Valiant," from Kay emerging in control of Deathmate to the CEO of P.R.S. getting his comeuppance to the Bloodshot Squad getting to make their own futures.  Lemire (or whoever picks up this series) could go a lot of different directions from here, and I'll admit I'm not sure if I'm going to follow.  We so rarely get these sorts of wins in comics, and I may actually just let the win stay a win.  If so, fare ye well, at least for now, Ray Garrison.

Captain America:  Steve Rogers #10:  After "Mighty Captain Marvel" #1, I assumed Maria Hill was found innocent, since Carol discusses building the Shield.  But, Spencer throws us a curveball here:  Maria finally gets her comeuppance.  (A lot of comeuppance happening this week, apparently.)  She's found guilty and flees the Helicarrier to deliver the Shield plans to Carol.  Needless to say, the Skull is furious:  we learn his plan is to have the Chitauri invade Earth so he can come to power in the wake of the destruction they will inevitably cause.  We still don't know exactly why Steve wanted to see Sharon put in charge instead of Maria, though.  Does he think Maria more competent than Sharon?  Is he worried she would suss out his plans more easily?  Did he know Sharon would give the job to him?  It also seems weird he'd want S.H.I.E.L.D. to be more powerful if the plan is for Earth to fall to the Chitauri.  But, more powerful it will be, thanks to Sharon pulling out all the stops to get the S.H.I.E.L.D. Act passed, allowing it to become America's first line of defense in case of a Doomsday scenario or terrorist attack (or alien invasion).  Sharon tells Steve he needs to be Director, since the person leading the organization with all that power has to be beyond reproach.  If I had to guess, Steve plans on leading S.H.I.E.L.D. to failure in the Chitauri invasion so he can show even at its most powerful it's less effective than HYDRA.  The only good news Steve gets in this issue is the revelation that Free Spirit pulled the plug on Jack Flag before he has to administer a drug to kill him.  At least he's wrapped up one loose end.

Thunderbolts #9:  I can't say I'm thrilled Marvel's sucked me into reading this series, but I have to admit I find myself charmed.  The team is fun, and it's great to see Bucky again.  That said, it's hard to see why "Captain America:  Steve Rogers" #10 directed its readers to this issue.  Other than the mere presence of Bucky, this issue is nowhere near as connected to Spencer's story as issues #7-#8 were.  As far as I can tell, the only possible connection is if the alien race the Thunderbolts capture here are somehow connected to the Chitauri, meaning the beacon they activated will draw the Chitauri to Earth.  But, no one even remotely mentions that here, so it's just a guess.  I guess we'll see.

Detective Comics #949:  It seems as if we've seen the end of Bruce's team of misfits here, as Batwoman decides to go to war with the organizations trying to obtain the monster venom.  Combined with Red Robin's "death" during "Rise of the Batman" arc and Spoiler's defection during the "Victim Syndicate" arc, we really only Clayface and Orphan left.  I'm disappointed, because I really loved this premise and would've been thrilled to see it last longer than nine months.  But, I also have to admit Tynion and Bennett wrap up the story nicely, if we are indeed seeing the end of this group.  Everyone is where they are at the end of this issue for specific reasons that evolved over the course of the last 16 issues.  We don't often get that in comics, so I have to tip my hat to the authors, even if I'm disappointed with the outcome.  Onwards and upwards.

IvX #3 and All-New X-Men #17:  Lemire does a pretty convincing job here of portraying the NuHumans as a threat the X-Men underestimated.  Inferno gets the drop on Logan because he was overconfident, though Forge somewhat unconvincingly blunders into telling Iso exactly how to disable the machine he's building to eliminate the remaining Terrigen Cloud.  It's still unclear how the Royal Family is going to escape Magik's prison to then break into X-Haven, but I have to admit it's a solid plan.  But, it's Hopeless that grounds this event in actual emotions.  If tactical conversations are par for the course in the main title, Hopeless makes young Hank sound ridiculous as he lays out the plan for Bobby, who just cares about finally kissing Romeo.  The good news is he does, when he follows the X-Men into New Attilan simply to find him.  Is it responsible?  No, it's not.  After all, if the X-Men don't win, Bobby's going to be dead in two weeks.  Does it matter though?  Nope.  After all, Bobby essentially argues they wouldn't be at this point if people had the motivation to solve the impasse that he and Romeo have.  He's not wrong.  In fact, for the one taken the least seriously of all the X-Men, he's probably the only one thinking straight (heh) at this point.

Pathfinder:  Worldscape #4:  In the past, "Pathfinder" series have been pretty straight-forward romps.  The plot usually hasn't been too complicated, generally a step above a smash-and-grab adventure.  But, Mona really ups the ante here.  In this issue, we learn Kulan Gath pulled Merisiel through the gates 20 years ago.  His magic identified her as the "master thief" he and Camilla needed to unify the Scepter and the Crown.  We learn Tarzan was one of the few people ever to come into possession of both items, but he thought it too dangerous to keep them together.  He went into seclusion with the Crown and gave the Scepter to his ally, the warrior Queen Pha.  Over a period of six weeks, Meris helps Camilla and her team recover the Scepter from Pha, conquering the city of Shareen in the process.  Interestingly, this Camilla claims she wants to unify the two items to empty the Worldscape, allowing everyone to return to their homeworlds.  It's unclear how she becomes the despot we saw at the start of this series.  But, we'll surely learn.  At any rate, upon arriving, Meris caught a glimpse of the jungle goddess, Fantomah.  After a failed love affair, a distraught Meris begs for her help, and she appears, sending Meris home with no memory of her time in the Worldscape.  Enigmatically, Fantomah says they can help each other before dispatching Meris, so it's clear Fantomah has plans for Meris this time.  When Meris arrives again in the Worldscape, she remembers everything...including Kulan Gath, present at her arrival and announcing she'll work for him again.  For how complicated it all sounds, Mona does an amazing job of presenting it coherently, and I'm really, really excited about where we're going from here.

Prowler #4:  Hobie has always been a little arrogant, but Ryan makes him a downright asshole in this series.  First, he continues lamenting he has to do everything on his own...even after Julia saves his life, getting him to New U and his pills in time.  But, he also complains about her condescension when she refuses to see the Jackal as an agent of good.  But, of course, Julia is right, so it's hard to argue she was just being condescending in refusing to believe him.  Hobie doesn't even really try to argue his case:  he just wants her to believe him because he believes it.  I like Hobie, and I wanted to like this series.  But, Ryan has him wallow in so much text-box misery that it's not the series for me, unfortunately.

Also Read:  Avengers #1.MU; Extraordinary X-Men #18; Reborn #4; Star Wars #27-#28

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The January 18 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batman #15:  This entire arc is possibly the most perfect Batman/Catwoman story ever written, and I won't spoil it by even reviewing it.  Just read it.  She stole the night indeed.

Black Widow #10:  Well, I didn't see pretty much any of that coming.  OK, I thought Waid might give Natasha back her memories of her relationship with Bucky.  After all, the Lion's cousin was pretty much made-to-order for that task, particularly when his powers were combined with access to Nick Fury's secrets.  But, Waid doesn't exactly confirm that here.  Sure, Nat calls Bucky "James" and awakens from her ever-so-brief coma with a personality much more reminiscent of her previous one.  But, Waid is right that Nat also knows she has a job to do, so she can't get entangled with Bucky at this moment.  (Her most enigmatic comment is about how Bucky can't keep secrets from her.  Their relationship wasn't Bucky's secret, so I'm not sure what she meant by that.  It's particularly weird considering it was her answer to his question about whether she remembers their relationship.)  We're just left with the hope that she feels something for him again, and I guess I can live with that (for now).  All that said, it's the death of both Lions that threw me for a loop.  Waid seemed to have greater plans for them, so their sudden exit from the scene is surprising.  But, it does re-focus us on Recluse, who gets back her "girls" here, preparing for war with Nat.  Moreover, Fury's cryptic message to Nat -- spelling out the word "friendship" in Russian -- remains unclear.  Maybe it was that message that activated her memory of Bucky, like a code word.  Or, maybe it's something else.  But, again, it's a reminder that Nat's right:  we've got other fish to fry than romance at this point.

Clone Conspiracy #4:  After three issues and several tie-in issues where Slott seemed to be dragging out the story for as long as possible, he slams on the accelerator here.  Unfortunately, it means we fly past logic on the way to our destination (wherever that is).  Peter decides not to help Ben resurrect Uncle Ben after he sees Ben's "Haven," a Pleasant Hill-esque sub-basement where the resurrected people live with their families.  I generally agree with Slott that Peter would come to this conclusion, but I'll say that Slott could've explored his decision-making process a little more.  Peter tells Ben he's exercising his power without responsibility, but doesn't really elaborate on why he thinks so:  he only seems troubled (as he should be) by Ben engaging in emotional blackmail to create his "web" of supporters, like Jonah.  Again, I don't necessarily disagree with the idea Peter would reject Ben's overture, but Slott's has strongly hinted Peter was sympathetic to Ben's plans.  In fact, in dozens of alternative universes, Peter apparently winds up helping Ben.  As such, it would've been nice to see why this Peter draws a line.  Was it just because of the blackmail?  But, Ben suddenly orders the residents of Haven to kill Peter without any hesitation, and an answer to that question becomes irrelevantThis action makes it hard to believe we're really dealing with Ben here.  First, he continues to refuse to answer Peter's questions about how he could've been resurrected from mere ash.  But, more importantly, Slott never really explains how someone who goes to great lengths in this issue to assure Peter he's a good guy could so easily embrace being a bad guy.  It even gets worse:  Ben offers to give Anna-Maria a "normal" body in exchange for the cure she's developed for the cellular degeneration.  It not only reveals Ben is a bigot, but it also shows just how cutting edge Ben's technology apparently is.  Previously, he could just miraculously cure ailments like heart disease.  Now, Slott is saying he can change a person's entire body structure.  But, it's the crack about Anna-Marie's height that pushes Otto over the edge, and he uses his discovery that harmonics are the cause of the cellular degeneration to start destroying the clonesThis incident somehow creates the Carrion virus, because Anna-Maria also begins to disintegrate.  Before Slott can explain why the clones' affliction jumps to humans, Ben decides to use Jonah's FACT studio to broadcast the signal -- and the virus -- to the entire world.  Yeah, I don't get it either.  I mean, I get the idea clones might be susceptible to harmonics, but why would humans be?  Moreover, why would a radio signal cause it?  The whole story -- between the now-numerous instances of sketchy scientific justifications and the character assassination of Ben -- is just a mess.

Amazing Spider-Man #23:  Slott and Gage pick up the story we didn't see in "Clone Conspiracy"#4 in this issue but it leaves me with more questions than answers.  Something I didn't mention in the review of "Clone Conspiracy" #4 is that Peter was fast and loose with calling out Ben's name while everything goes pear-shaped.  At one point, Ben is on the TV monitor announcing he's broadcasting the Carrion virus and Peter is surrounded by his enemies as they succumb to the virus.  Peter just starts absolutely bellowing, "Ben!"  This carelessness is made all the odder here with the revelation that most people seem to think the Jackal is Warren.  Captain Stacy and Gwen know it's Ben Reilly, though it's unclear how Stacy knew; Gwen admits she guessed.  Why would he even remotely want to throw out that name, given how easy it would be to connect him to Ben?  Other than that, Slott and Gage do a solid job of imaging what a conversation between Peter and a resurrected Gwen Stacy would look like.  Peter is particularly fixated on Gwen as a clone, putting her in the same category as Ben and Kaine:  he's not negating her right to exist, but he's also not accepting her as "Gwen" anymore than Ben or Kaine are "Peter."  But, Gwen rightfully notes both Ben and Kaine had life experiences different from Peter that inform who they are; Gwen herself essentially woke up the minute after dying.  At this point, they get to the crux of the matter:  Gwen believes Peter can't accept her because he can't accept being happy.  After he admits that he and MJ were only happy for "a time," she realizes he's built the walls so high around himself that no one can get over them, not even her.  It's a solid argument, to an extent.  Peter essentially agrees, saying that she's not Gwen to him largely because he's not the Peter he was when they were together.  It's the first time Peter's refusal to accept this new technology feels real and not just a convenient way for Slott to advance the action.  That said, part of me still wonders if Peter feels this way about everyone else he knows who's been resurrected.  Does he refuse to accept Captain America is Steve Rogers?  I mean, how many times has Harry Osborn "died?"  But, Slott clearly hasn't thought through this argument fully, so I'm not going to push my luck.

Mighty Captain Marvel #1:  The good news is this issue is fun.  Stohl really captures the joy of CarolAs a member of the Carol Corps, it's this sense of humor I felt was missing in the woman we saw in "Civil War II," and I'm glad to see it's returned.  The only bad news is it's almost too much fun.  Stohl has Alpha Flight producing a TV series based on Carol to fund its operations, and I have to admit I found that premise implausible even for a comic book.  Is Netflix really paying so much at this point that we could run a fully staffed space station from the proceeds?  If so, I need to get into producing.  At any rate, Stohl thankfully has a firmer handle on the rest of the plot, diving into current events in the same way Nick Spencer is in "Captain America:  Sam Wilson."  We learn S.H.I.E.L.D. (if not Maria Hill) is building the Shield to keep out interplanetary refugees fleeing the oncoming Chitauri horde.  Carol has apparently regrown her conscience, because she's appalled at the idea we're going to lock out refugees.  However, before we can delve too far into that argument, she is called to save a Kree child in one of the camps.  Said child was the target of a shape-shifting bounty hunter, who's apparently been tasked with collecting ten such children.  Good luck getting his hands on that last kid now that she's under Carol's care!  Other than the TV-series weirdness, this issue is a long awaited return to form for Carol.

Nightwing #14:  Seeley is stretching some premises a little too far here.  For example, the hard-boiled detective who doesn't like "tights" apparently has a photographic memory for the position of the heads of every murder she's worked.  Moreover, the perpetrator apparently has an obsession with moving said heads after he kills the person, which just seems...weird.  Like, what sort of childhood trauma makes him want to position all the heads in the same way?  Did his father only look at his younger brother to his left at the dinner table?

Rebels #7-#10I felt the same way about these issues as I did the first six:  Wood and his collaborators have real moments of brilliance, but they just as often get a strike while swinging for the fences.  Wood's approach to this series has been to harness the power of understated quiet.  This approach shined when he used it to uncover the various layers of Seth Abbot's soul in the first six issues.  But, it doesn't work in all cases, and we see that time and again in these issues.  The character of Silence Bright -- a mixed-race printer in British-occupied Boston -- needed much more attention in issue #8; Wood never even attempts to describe how someone like her could survive and thrive in colonial Boston.  He does much better in telling the story of Molly Pitcher in issue #7, stoking the reader's outrage as she's denied a veteran's pension because she's not a man.  Wood uses her story to bring to life the teams of women and children who supported the Colonial Army, and it works so well because her steely quiet conveys her disapproval so perfectlyHe also excels with Stone Hoof, the young Native American featured in issue #9, but he does so because he ditches the silent approach.  We are given enough insight into the characters' thinking for the tragedy of the French and Indian War to be made clear.  It also embraces the ethos of this series, sending most of us, I'm guessing, to Wikipedia to learn more about it.  It's probably the best single issue of the series.  But, Wood takes the silent approach to an extreme in the final issue, and it's probably the worst one of the series.  We are left knowing virtually nothing about the young British redcoat after we watch his story unfold so tragically.  Wood and his collaborators often toy with us through ambiguity, but they go too far here:  it seems to be Seth Abbot himself who shot the young man, and it's also unclear whether he's dead or playing possum.  But, Wood has given us so little at that point that it's hard to care whether or not he survives; the possibility of it being Seth is the only frisson of energy I felt in the issue.  I ended issue #6 saying I wish it had been issue #24, and I feel the same way here.  Wood leaves so much on the table that it feels like a promise unfulfilled.  I just have to hope he returns to Seth (and not just his son, as he apparently will be doing in the upcoming series) again, so we can see the war through his eyes.  That would be a comic I'd be happy to read.

Also Read:  Avengers #3.1; Captain America:  Sam Wilson #18; Spider-Gwen #16; Star Wars:  Dr. Aphra #3; U.S.Avengers #2

Monday, February 20, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The BuckyNat Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Black Widow #7-#9:  As someone mentioned in a letters page at some point, Nat has often been softened up a bit in her portrayals.  Waid and Samnee make clear we're not getting that Nat here.  First, we learn the Weeping Lion and his cousin (the one depicted as his brother last issue) were involved in Nat's first kill:  she killed the Lion's father and thought she killed him, too.  But, his cousin was sleeping in the back of the car and managed to save the Lion's life (though not his voice, a result of Nat slitting his throat).  Nat is unaware of this past, probably thinking the Lion's cousin came after her just to get her secrets (and not because of an old vendetta).  But, any attempt to dismiss this viciousness as something she's outgrown is put to rest here.  After the Headmistress kills herself to avoid the Lion's cousin probing her thoughts, Recluse is distraught, in no small part given her fury over the Headmistress always loving Widow more.  I was waiting for Nat to be kind, telling Recluse she only loved Nat more because Recluse lacked viciousness, and that isn't a terrible thing.  But, Nat instead ridicules Recluse for being weak.  As a result, she leaves behind a powerful enemy as the Headmistress did when she herself showed Nat mercy (as a child).  But, Nat has more immediate problems, as it appears the Lion and his cousin are slowly collecting the girls from the Dark Room who Nat is trying to find.  She saves three of them in this issue, but it's clear to see the Lion's cousin is using the information he gleaned from the Headmistress to stay one step ahead of her.  It raises the question why Nat thinks she can trust him in the first place?  It's not like she really has any leverage over him. Also, shouldn't she have done a little research on the two of them?  If she did, she would've discovered her fairly personal connection with them.  Or, has she done that already and knows she's being played?  We shall see.

Thunderbolts #7-#8:  Bucky has loomed large in the Marvel Universe over the last few months, given his ongoing appearance in "Black Widow" and the unofficial cross-over event here with "Captain America:  Steve Rogers."  Steve is desperate to get his hands on Kobik, for reasons that you only fully understand if you're reading his title.  Issue #7 ends with Steve asking Bucky if he trusts him, but we never see the end of that conversation.  Bucky appears to have rebuffed Steve's offer (whatever it was) in issue #8, but Zub leaves out there the possibility they were putting on a show for the Thunderbolts.  Given "Captain America:  Steve Rogers" directs its readers to read these issues, it's clear they're going to have an impact on Captain Nazi's story.  I just have to wonder when eventually we're going to bring it to a conclusion.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The January 11 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

All-Star Batman #6:  Some people love Scott Snyder, and I am happy for them. I am.  Unfortunately, I'm just not one of those people.  Snyder plays with too many techniques here, using two different omniscient narrators to tell his story of Batman's confrontation with Mr. Freeze in Alaska.  It's moody, to be sure.  But, unfortunately, all these narrators don't manage to explain the plot at all.  I was left scratching my head at the revelation that Bruce had brought some sort of hot virus with him to combat Freeze's cold virus.  The science, as presented, behind these viruses is...iffy at best.  Moreover, there are times when Snyder seems to forget his own brilliant ret-con of Freeze's origin, as the casual reader would have no idea that Nora was never actually Fries' wife in the DCnU.  It all supports my decision to drop this title.  I'm glad other people are thrilled with this series, but I think I can find somewhere else to spend my money,

Detective Comics #948:  Tynion and Bennett throw a lot at us here, and it's difficult to keep all the strands separate.  First, we are introduced to someone calling herself Dr. Victoria October who appears to have been dead at some point.  She comments how she knew Batman in her "pupal" phase and refers to her previous name as her "deadname."  It implies she may be someone we know, but it's unclear how we know her or how she's still alive.  Separately, we have the return of the Colony.  They've stolen samples from one of the dead monsters (from "The Night of the Monster Men") presumably in the hopes of turning it into a biological weapon.  (October reminds us that terrorist groups would spend a fortune to get their hands on the samples, given its raw destructive power.)  But, it's unclear what the Colony would want to do with such a weapon.  After all, I thought the Colony's mission was to defeat the League of Shadows.  Why would they want the ability to transform people into monsters to do so?  It's not like they're trying to invade Tokyo.  Then, we have the introduction of Colony Prime, a one-man army sent to free Jacob.  Tynion and Bennett don't tell us how the Colony learned Batman was keeping Jacob in the Belfry.  I guess it's not all that difficult to figure, given the Colony already knew the Belfry existed.  But, with all these various mysteries coming online simultaneously, it would've been nice to know at least that much.  That said, both Tynion and Bennett are excellent writers, so I'm confident all these questions will be answered at some point.  In fact, re-reading issues #939-#940 and #942, I'm impressed by the dedication to continuity.  The authors are picking up loose threads from both the "Rise of the Batmen" and "Night of the Monster Men" here, and it's fun to watch them weave them into a new story.

IvX #2:  Now that the fight has begun, this series improves considerably.  With a focus on implementing the X-Men's plan, Lemire and Soule stay in a comfortable lane.  In fact, the X-Men are so dominant in this outing that I'm almost worried it's all going to resolve itself too easily, because it's hard to imagine how the Inhumans are going to strike back successfully.  I assume they will, however.

Occupy Avengers #3:  Nightwing and his "sidekick," Deadly Nightshade, are solid additions to the team (if they are actually additions), though their debut in this issue is a little rocky.  First, Nightwing is furious at Hawkeye based on a previous encounter, but it's unclear if this encounter happened in a different series or if we're eventually going to see it as a flashback.  (This situation is why we used to have editors' notes, people!)  Walker also relies heavily on flashbacks to set up the premise of this arc (that a L.M.D. army of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents is recruiting new members.)  It leaves the reader (or, at least, me) feeling like he's missing a few issues, even though we're only on the third issue.  This problem is compounded by the characters engaging in a lot of expository dialogue they wouldn't otherwise know, like when Red Wolf apparently knew what L.M.D.s are.  That said, once we get into the action, everything runs more smoothly.

Spider-Man #12:  There's a moment when I read an issue like this one where I wonder how Bendis can write this series so well but "Avengers" was a fucking disaster.  Here, he manages to script several involved conversations with the most natural-feeling flow of any comic book I've probably ever read.  Moreover, he uses one of those conversations as a framing device for the entire arc, as Miles recounts the story to Ganke and Goldballs.  But, since they're teenage boys, we start said story with Miles telling them about making out with Gwen Stacy rather than the fact he was in Gwen's dimension in the first place looking for his father who disappeared on a mission for Maria Hill.  Honestly, though?  I also care the most about the Gwen part, too.  Color me excited!

Star Wars:  Poe Dameron #9:  I'm pretty sure I'm canceling this series after this arc ends.  I want to like it, but I just feel like Soule isn't finding a groove.  At first, this series seemed to be about Black Squadron, but everything was so chaotic it was hard to get to know them.  Now, it seems to be about Terex's beef with Poe.  But, honestly, I still don't understand why Terex decided to leave the First Order now to become a criminal or why he even stopped being a criminal in the first place.  So, it's hard to focus on said beef.  I just feel like we've never gotten a clear sense of anyone's motivations and, when we come close to getting one, they don't even make sense.

Titans #7:  Titans Together!  I could say more, but I don't think I really have to do so.  This issue pulls the team together into an actual team -- nervous lawyer, iconic HQ, and all.  I couldn't be more excited.

Also Read:  Amazing Spider-Man:  Renew Your Vows #3; Dungeons & Dragons:  Frost Giant's Fury #1; Mighty Thor #15; Ms. Marvel #14; Uncanny Avengers #19

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The January 4 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Avengers #3:  I could try to explain what I think happened here, but I won't, because I honestly have no idea.  Somehow the Wasp returning the baby to the future undoes the time paradox Vision created when he kidnapped the baby in the first place, and everyone goes home happy..., well, everyone except for Kang.  Apparently the Priests of Pama feed on time paradoxes, so they consume Kang and the Scarlet Centurion.  However, the Avengers are apparently going to go to war with Kang next issue, implementing a plan Sam has.  Yeah, I don't get it either.

Batman #14:  King confirms what we've known all along, that Catwoman didn't kill 237 people.  However, for some reason, she's committed to going to prison for life for the crime, after Amanda Waller abides by her agreement with Bruce and has her sentence commuted.  My guess is Selena is covering for the orphan who did kill these people, but we'll get there at some point.  In the meantime, King delivers a beautifully terse issue that lets Gerards' amazing artwork do the talking.  We're treated to a two-page splash of the starry Gotham night that foreshadows the diamonds Selena later gives to Bruce to fund an orphanage.  But, the scene is beautiful in its own right and really sets the stage for the two of them eventually making love on the rooftop.  (It's a rare acknowledgement that Selena knows Bruce's identity, something thrown into question at the start of the DCnU if I remember correctly.)  It's just a perfectly paced story from start to finish, conveying the melancholy and regret both characters feel.  Rarely does the art and script work together as beautifully as they do here.

Black Widow #1-#6 (TPB):  I first considered getting this series when I heard Bucky would be appearing at some point.  Bucky's relationship with Nat was one of the best parts of his time as Captain America, and I was devastated (really, I still am) when they erased her memory of him.  I was actually so mad at comics that I stopped really enjoying them for a few weeks.  But, Comixology was having a sale on TPBs, and I got this one.  I'm still trying to pare down my pull list, not expand it, but, after reading this arc, someone else is going to be on the chopping block.  At some point in the letters page, the editor acknowledges that one of the questions running through Waid and Samnee's run is whether Nat's really knowable.  I feel like I came the closest to doing so during those "Captain America" issues where she's in a relationship with Bucky, but maybe it wasn't the real her.  Maybe she was too happy. Waid and Samnee explore that idea here, and it's amazing.  To be honest, my appreciation of Nat outside "Captain America" larges comes from Scarlet Johansson's portrayal of her in the MCU, and Waid and Samnee preserve that dry sense of humor here.  I particularly loved the sequence where she mumbles to herself about Tony mocking her skills...after she took him by surprise and knocked him unconscious to access his vault.  Doubting her, indeed.  Moreover, Waid and Samnee have given Nat two formidable pairs of enemies in just these six issues:  the Weeping Lion brothers as well as the Recluse and her mother, Nat's former Headmistress at the Red Room.  The mind boggles where we're going to go from here.

Midnighter and Apollo #4:  Orlando leaves us with a mystery here, as Apollo seemed to have stumped Neron with a question about why he calls himself Apollo.  But, Neron later appears to have imprisoned Apollo, implying Neron guessed correctly (despite him obviously having guessed incorrectly that Apollo named himself after the Roman god).  But, the most interesting thing to me is the revelation that Apollo was human at some point.  I always thought he was an alien, but we learned here that he was abducted by aliens trying to make their own Superman after he told his parents he was gay.  Long-time readers might have known that, but I didn't.  Orlando uses this revelation to maximum effect, as Apollo basically laughs off Neron's attempt to break him, stating people have tried that many times before.  It's a reminder just how bad-ass Midnighter and Apollo are separately and together.

Nova #2:  "Your fans are...intense."  We are, Kamala.  We totally are!  I knew I trusted these authors when they evoked an argument Rich made during the original "Civil War," when he berated Iron Man for fighting the Civil War while he was busy fighting the Annihilation Wave.  They get it.  I'll also admit I totally cried fanboy tears when the bar on Knowhere toasted Rich, a sign that Earth might not remember his heroism but space does.  Originally, I wanted this series just to be about Rich, but I can't deny Sam adds something.  First, Rich and Sam's banter is great.  I loved when Rich started getting upset when Sam questioned him about his origins, and Sam responded by observing his father was a clone who tried to kill him.  Rich's response?  "Fair."  Perfect.  But, Sam's youth reminds us that Rich has now entered senior hero status and not just because Sam tries to defend himself by citing his ability to grow...."hair."  The authors draw a line under the point when Rich meets the Champions and asks if every superhero is a twelve-year-old.  If he is Rich and he's going to stay, he has to operate in the new Marvel Universe.  He's no longer a New Warrior, but an honest-to-fucking-God hero, as the toasting denizens of the bar remind us.

Spider-Man 2099 #19:  Well, Peter David really stepped it up a notch, didn't he?  I mean, sure, I didn't really buy that "Mother" (or whatever her name was) forgot about Elektra, allowing Elektra to kill her while she was delivering a monologue to Miguel and Roberta about why America has to fall.  But, it doesn't matter...because Tyler Stone is back in action!  He's clearly going to turn Tempest into some sort of terrible monster, maybe like the one she became when Miguel cured her cancer.  Whatever it is, it seems unlikely Miguel is going to be happy with the result.  (For the continuity folks out there like me, Tyler specifically refers to the fact that he was also previously paralyzed, adding to the information we have about where we are in Miguel's original timeline.)

U.S.Avengers #1:  Reading Bobby's speech about how the American flag is his flag and their flag regardless of how the people afraid of them feel about it the weekend of Donald Trump banning Muslims from entering the United States makes me think Al Ewing can predict the future.  I was going to cancel this series in favor of "Hawkeye" but decided to give it a whirl because I love Sam.  Well, after reading it, I'm all on board with Bobby and his desire to reclaim the flag for the rest of us.

Also Read:  Captain America:  Sam Wilson #17; Champions #4; Hawkeye #2; Moon Knight #10; Nightwing #12; Unworthy Thor #2